The Golden Mean, Is There One?

Everything that sounds good is good. You would think this was a non sequitur, that the correct statement would be, NOT everything that sounds good is good. Sadly, how we operate today runs along the first statement. How could this be?

I will be honest and say that not every person who lives the first statement when questioned would ever admit they believe it, that in fact they intellectually understand that not everything that sounds good is good. Some will even reach for antidotes where in their life they experienced something that proved not good when they thought it would be. Actually they believe both. They are, you can say, of two minds and contradictory at that.

Some of you know that we actually have two brains; a right brain and a left brain. There are a number of ways they are different. For instances we read this about their differences: “The right side of the brain is the home to emotions, intuition, creativity, art and music whereas the left side of the brain logic, language, reasoning, analysis and math reign supreme.” The two sides of the brain are not strangers, independent simply living in the same cranial cavity. They communicate with each other and function as a whole. How does this happen? “The Corpus Callosum is the part of the mind that allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. It is responsible for transmitting neural messages between both the right and left hemispheres.”

Dr. Spock of the science fiction classic Star Trek fame, a half-Vulcan, half-Human, lived almost exclusively in his left brain, a Vulcan trait. He considered this the only way to live because human emotions only got in the way of good decisions. The killer of 11 in the synagogue in Pittsburg cried out during and after his killing, “Kill the Jews. All the Jews should be dead.” He was living in his right side of his brain, all emotion.

Here is a favorite statement I make: It’s never either/or but both/and. You see, it’s really only one brain that has separate independent duties that make up a whole. We idealize that there is a proper balance between the two sides, left and right, and where there is a proper balance life is perfect and what sounds good is good. It’s fed by the modern construct of Aristotle’s Golden Mean, a concept not owned by Aristotle but found in every culture, and before Aristotle in Plato and Socrates. For those ancient Greeks it’s best expressed in this mythology:

“Among these anecdotes, one told in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses (VIII: 183-235) that Daedalus was shut up in a tower to prevent his knowledge of the labyrinth from spreading to the public. He could not leave Crete by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched. Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He tied feathers together, from smallest to largest so as to form an increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. When the work was finally done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly. When both were prepared for flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the heat of the sun would melt the wax, nor too low because the sea foam would make the wings wet and they would no longer fly. Thus the father and son flew away.

“They had passed Samos, Delos and Lebynthos when the boy began to soar upward as if to reach heaven. The blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together and they came off. Icarus fell into the sea. His father cried, bitterly lamenting his own arts, and called the land near the place where Icarus fell into the ocean Icaria in memory of his child.”

In Matthew 22: 36-40 we read these words:

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The second commandment is prefaced on the first; love God with all . . . Only then can the golden mean be expressed. To love someone as greater than yourself comes across as submissive and to love yourself as greater is egocentric, but when God is your source of love you can love everyone, including yourself, equally therefore treat everyone equally. Here, what you believe to be good. has a greater chance of being good.

This is an outline for a perfect world. We must have this as an idea but not an ideal. No, they are not the same. An idea inspires us, and ideal traps us. You know, we’ve got to get over the ideal of a perfect reachable world. Period. Shocking, I know. Especially for Christians who want to believe that God will give us that ideal world if we but follow Him. We’re never going to get to the place where what we believe is good will end in good, or is good from the beginning. It’s not always that way.

You may recall me writing that my wife and I were in the Christian musical production of “If My People” whose theme was taken from 2 Chronicles 7:14“If my people, who bear my name, will humble themselves . . .” (Complete Jewish Bible.) The operative phrase in this scripture is “will humble themselves.” Merriam-Webster defines humble this way: 

“not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive”

I’m afraid we modern Americans have lost “humble”. We don’t do humble very well if at all. The Vulcan Spock didn’t do humble because he believed the left brain was far superior to the emotional right brain. Those who live on emotion minus reason also don’t do humble because they’ve rejected reason and scream pure emotion. Self-righteous can get very lonely.

For those who operate on the level of “if it sounds good it is good” have to disassociate the results from the cause so that in our minds both are the same. For instance read this news where good-is-good:

Colorado residents who don’t identify as a male or female will soon be able to select “Gender X” on their driver’s licenses, thanks to recent court decisions.

The change will go into effect on Nov. 30 and comes from an emergency rule made by judges overseeing legal cases in which transgender individuals fought to change the sex listed on their driver’s licenses from their biological sex to their preferred one.

“This is an important step for the state of Colorado that the state documents reflect our values,” Colorado Department of Revenue executive director Michael Hartman told the Denver Post. “People are people no matter their sex identification.”

This story is clearly about good being good in the face of real questions about such good. Whether you believe God created humans or they mysteriously came out of the goo of the earth we came in only two genders. In our modern world we don’t want to believe that so we’ve come up with at least 116 different genders. How can this be when science has for thousands of years accepted only two visible genders? It begins with rejecting reality, rejecting science, which is curious because where we want science to be absolutely true (i.e. evolution, climate change) we condemn as anti-science those who hold different ideas. We dismiss left brain for right brain only.

Two frightening things found in this story is 1) judges determined our morals and 2) it is supposedly a reflection of our values. Gender and biology once were the same, different ways of expressing the same thing. What changed? Not reality. Gender became a mental construct to fit our political beliefs. In reality there is no “gender x”. As an idea it’s beyond ludicrous as well as the other 114 so-called genders. The two supposed goods don’t match but because we want to believe they are the same we now force everyone to accept it, legally force them criminalizing contrary beliefs.

The idea I’m reaching for here is that just because we believe something good doesn’t make it good and the story above is just an example of this. Just for a little balance, in our misguided attempt at social justice we are trying to do something about two extremes, looking for, if it can be found, a golden mean. Homosexuality, transgenderism, has been in history demonized as evil (not just by fundamental Christians but Muslims as well) and must be shunned by society representing the left-sided thinking. Rather than finding a middle ground we took wanting homosexuals and transgenders to feel good about themselves so we took it to the opposite extreme making saints out of them condemning everyone who thought otherwise, the right brain dominating. We now don’t want to believe there is a middle ground, no golden mean, no humility that others might just be right and I wrong.

If others just accepted what we believe to be righteously righteous we’d have our ideal world. You think?